What is in a name?

Our name is never our own. It is something that was decided for us at birth. Unless you change your name by deed poll. More often than not we keep out first names. But when it comes to our surnames it is something that is centuries old. The interesting question is where did surnames come from?

Surnames really became prominent when people started to move geographically from the small village a family had been for generations to a new town or area. This was where surnames really came into use.

Surnames are a sign of identification, even more so back then. They originate from an occupation, the son of their father, a specific place they lived as well.

Names like Smith, Cooper, Miller originate from the job they did of blacksmith, cooper and a miller.

Names like Williamson, Johnson, Harrison are sons of William, John and Harry.

Names like Markham and Leatherbarrow are based on where someone lived. Markham is meaning a boundary + ham as a homestead. Leatherbarrow is lair by the wood, that is done by breaking down the word from Old English and Norse combined.

Like a lot of surnames they originate from Old English, Norse. Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Gaelic have their own translations and variations. Other languages may have different reasons for surnames in translation.

For example my surname is Parry, which originates from North Wales and means son of Harry (Henry). Similar to the Harris and Harrison in English.

For all the reasons mentioned above, it is why two people could have the surname Smith and not ever be related due to the centuries ancestral reasons of having a blacksmith in a particular village way back in history.

Always essential in researching family trees is to double-check the location.


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